News Releases

Fred Hutch announces 12 recipients of Dr. Eddie Méndez award

In its third year, the annual award recognizes postdoctoral researchers from groups historically under-represented in science

SEATTLE — May 18, 2021 — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has announced 12 recipients of the 2021 Dr. Eddie Méndez award, honoring a physician-scientist and cherished colleague at Fred Hutch.

The recipients are postdoctoral researchers from across the U.S. with research expertise in cancer, infectious disease and basic sciences.

“We are proud to recognize the accomplishments of this year’s recipients and their substantial contributions in both scientific discoveries as well as shaping the field of science to be a more inclusive culture,” said Dr. Paul Buckley, vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Fred Hutch.

“This program is part of the Hutch’s priority to expand the pipeline of diverse scientists, to support them as they begin their scientific careers and help them build networks of colleagues that will help them thrive as scientists,” said Buckley, whose leadership of the center’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) has helped nurture the Méndez award program along with other diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives across Fred Hutch.

“By diversifying the scientific workforce, our aim is to make science itself more inclusive in the questions we ask and how we interpret the answers. This will move us closer to the Hutch’s goal of relieving suffering from disease for all people,” Buckley said.

Fred Hutch leaders created this award in 2019 to honor Dr. Eddie Méndez, a Fred Hutch physician-scientist who died of cancer in 2018, but is remembered for his commitment to supporting early-career scientists who were under-represented in the sciences, including racial minorities, ethnic groups and individuals with disabilities. After leaving Puerto Rico, Méndez attended Princeton University and then obtained a medical degree from University of Maryland at Baltimore. He later came to University of Washington as a resident, where he became known for expertise in head and neck cancers.

Now in its third year, the award has recognized a total of 28 recipients, including the 2021 cohort.

Solicited from universities and cancer research centers around the U.S, this year’s awardees reflect the spirit of Dr. Méndez, and represent a breadth of scientific research. Research topics include understanding the microbiome and how it relates to cancer and infectious diseases, biobehavioral reasons for health disparities in breast cancer, and – new this year as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic – studies of SARS-CoV-2 function and immune response.

“Dr. Méndez was a beloved colleague who strove to support and encourage scientists around him,” said Dr. Christopher Li, who oversees the Méndez award program. Li is the faculty director of ODEI and an epidemiologist in Fred Hutch’s Public Sciences Division.

“This program has had a substantial impact on increasing Fred Hutch’s visibility among trainees from backgrounds that have been historically excluded in science. It has also had a meaningful impact on trainees themselves and ties in with national efforts to support diverse mentoring networks as recently highlighted in an opinion piece co-authored by one of our 2020 awardees, Dr. Christina Termini, published in Trends in Cancer.”

The award includes an honorarium for the recipients, and they are honored at a fall symposium where they give presentations on their research findings and network with other scientists. The date and format (virtual, in-person) will be decided in the coming month.

“The symposium was an amazing opportunity to share my research with the wider Hutch community and allowed me to foster old and new connections with several investigators at the Hutch” said Dr. Ahmed Diab, a Fred Hutch postdoctoral fellow, who received the Méndez award in its inaugural year. Diab had been a postdoctoral researcher in Méndez’s lab up until the physician-scientist’s death.

“Many Fred Hutch scientists were particularly helpful with my NIH pathway to independence award preparation. Putting together an application is a feat, and I am grateful for the support and guidance I received along the process,” Diab said.

People interested in applying for next year’s Méndez award can reach out to diversity@fredhutch.org for more information. Solicitation for the next round of applications is expected in mid-October and with applications due February 2022.

 

2021 Dr. Eddie Méndez award recipients

Gretchen M. Alicea, Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins University

David Castillo-Azofeifa, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco

Victor S. Cortez, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco

Carlos Gonzalez, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego

Alex J. Guseman, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh 

Tikvah Katheryn Hayes, Ph.D.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Alan Paul Lombard, Ph.D.
University of California, Davis

Giovanny Joel Martínez-Colón, Ph.D.
Stanford University

Jesús A. Romo, Ph.D.
Tufts University

Cathy Samayoa, Ph.D.
San Francisco State University

Katia Troha, Ph.D.
Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Valerie A. Tornini, Ph.D.
Yale University

###

Media Contact:
Molly McElroy                                                                                                                                    
mwmcelro@fredhutch.org   

At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.